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Financial Aid Critical to Graduation Rates

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If you are a college student, or planning to be one in the future, here are some facts you should brush up on. According to the research group Public Agenda (funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), more than half of all students who dropped out of school and failed to graduate did so because they “needed to go to work and make money.” One-third of respondents said they simply couldn’t afford the tuition. The most at-risk students are those who receive no financial support from their families nor from the government in the form of student financial aid.

Of the students who dropped out

  • 58% said they couldn’t rely on help from parents or relatives
  • 69% said they didn’t receive any scholarship or other financial aid
  • 69% said they didn’t receive a student loan

Among those who successfully graduated, on the other hand

  • 66% had financial support form their family
  • 57% received scholarship or financial aid
  • 49% had a student loan

There are a few things that stand out to me about these statistics. First, the obvious, that college is incredibly expensive and taxing (in more ways than just financial). Without family help and support, it’s exceptionally difficult to get through those four (or more) years.

The next thing that this study says to me is that financial aid is of vital importance to commencement rates. And therein lies the rub. If 6 out of 10 students dropped out after not receiving any financial assistance from their families, I am thinking that those are the very students who would have qualified for generous federal aid — including the Pell Grant and other federal grants, plus federal work study and of course student loans (either the Perkins loan for low-income students or the Stafford loan for other students).

And yet, almost 7 out of 10 students who had to drop out for financial reasons said they didn’t receive any financial aid. I’m wondering if they filled out the FAFSA? Why else wouldn’t they have received financial aid?

People, if you don’t complete your FAFSA, you cannot qualify for federal financial aid. Period. It doesn’t matter if you are the most deserving, most “needy” student in the country. Without a completed FAFSA, you won’t see a penny in federal (or state or university) money. Please, for the sake of your graduation rate, FILL OUT YOUR FAFSA.

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